Simple fare that tastes great
The name of this quaint town is used here to refer to something or someone who's ulu (from unknown kampung origins).
But there are many known, respected Singaporeans and permanent residents (like food blogger Catherine Ling of Camemberu and Phillip Lim of Keropokman) who are from this little town.
Batu Pahat, or "chiselled stone", is small in size and ulu by reputation but normal in so many ways.
The streets are a throwback to 1970s Singapore, with rows of British influenced shophouse architecture and five-foot ways. And the people are still small-town friendly.
Many parts are unkempt but charming and the best part is to take a stroll from row to row of these shops in town.
You see a shop selling old-school hot-water flasks, except it's not a hipster stall hawking antiques, it's just an old shop selling old things in an old town.
I had the pleasure of exploring Batu Pahat with Johor makan enthusiast Tony Boey of the Johor Kaki blog (who is Singaporean but is spending much of his early retirement in Johor).
The first thing I asked was: "What's this town known for?"
Explore and you'll learn that it's ikan assam pedas.
ASSAM PEDAS TAMBAK
Corner of Jalan Hamidon
(8am to 2pm, closed on Tuesdays)
This stall, if no locals had told you about it, you'd easily miss. It sits inside one of those ubiquitous corner zinc roof canteens and it houses a few uninspiring looking stalls, two of which sell assam pedas.
It offers fresh black and red snapper heads. If you like it sour and spicy (as in assam and pedas) with a calming hint of sweetness, this won't fail you.
With just plain rice and perhaps an omelette, you are on the way to humble Malaysian makan heaven.
It costs about RM26 (about $9) and it's good for two big tummies.
ASSAM PEDAS MAK LIMAH
No 3, Jalan Dato Tay Kim Peow
(8am to 3pm, closed on Thursdays and Fridays)
This one goads me and packs them in for lunch every day. It is the way I know and like assam pedas - sour and spicy, and in this case, very much so and with no hints of sweetness to calm you at all.
My throat screamed for more warning time at the first spoonful of the gravy.
The red snapper head was as usual fresh and it needed no other garnish. Actually, I could have just eaten the gravy with rice. It reeled me in, hook line and sinker.
At RM29 for that portion (depending on size, said the menu), it came with a sweeter fresh and soft red snapper head.
NAM WEE MEE CHANG KUEH/APPAM BALIK
Junction of Jalan Soga and Jalan Abu Bakar
(Noon to 4pm, irregular days off)
It is the only food shop in this faded old corner coffee shop and everyone comes for this basic mee chang kueh, filled with peanuts, sugar and margarine, and a cuppa.
It looks thin and crispy, but it's very much like the old, thick, soft batter type. The crispy edges of the soft pancake is just the way I like it.
A whole pan costs RM6 and it may take an hour for three people to savour it with kopi kao.